Case study

Detective sergeant — Megan Short

Megan's strong sense of right and wrong and her desire to seek justice for others led her to a career in the police, where she now specialises as a detective in child protection cases

How did you get your job as a detective sergeant?

I'm a substantive police sergeant with relevant child protection experience and was asked to head up a new department at Police Scotland dealing with child protection referrals from the entire division.

What's a typical working day like?

It's always fairly hectic, bordering on unmanageable on some days. My day begins at 7am downloading all concern reports which have been submitted from police officers overnight. There can be as many as 100 reports relating to child and adult concern, domestic abuse, hate crime and youth offending. I immediately allocate all high concerns to a detective constable for processing. There are also new requests for referrals or information e.g. from social work. Part of my job is to check and assess the responses and authorise the information which is being sent.

I organise time slots for interagency referral discussions (IRD) involving the police, social work, education and health and I also request background research on the family. The purpose of the IRD is to decide if a child is required to be jointly interviewed by specially trained police officers and social workers. I chair the discussions, usually done via teleconference, and manage the information shared by each agency.

If required, the police and social worker will decide on a time to interview the child, usually at school. There can be seven to eight referrals per day.

What do you enjoy most about being a detective?

Policing is a complex but rewarding role. I enjoy the practical aspects of helping children who are in dire situations. I also enjoy making decisions that improve things for a family. The camaraderie within the office is good and essential for everyone's sanity.

What are the challenges in your job?

There is more work than there are available police officers. The politics of the job can be challenging, too. The expectations of what service the police can provide are sometimes not realistic.

How relevant is your degree?

Although my European business administration with languages degree is not directly relevant, it has given me excellent written communication skills. When I worked as a detective constable within Special Branch at Aberdeen Airport, I frequently spoke French or Italian to assist passengers.

What are your career ambitions?

I joined Grampian Police as I wanted a career with variety and progression. I also have a strong sense of right and wrong and fairness and wanted to help people to obtain justice for wrongdoing. I have been in the police for many years now and have had different roles, both in rural and city locations. Starting out in uniform as a response officer, I secured a post as a detective constable within child protection a few years later. For the next post I transferred to Special Branch at Aberdeen Airport focusing on National Security and Counter Terrorism.

To prepare for promotion to the role of police sergeant I returned to uniformed policing in a senior police officer role which also included tutoring a probationer who was struggling with confidence. My current ambition is to secure another promotion.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into police work?

  • Build some life and job experience prior to joining the police. Most people believe policing is what they see on TV shows and the reality is very different.
  • Gain as much experience as you can in divisional policing before moving onto a specialist department. I cannot emphasise the importance of a good grounding in basic policing skills before specialising.
  • Specifically to my current role, take an active interest in child protection enquiries and put yourself forward for joint interview training.